According to U.S. census data, an estimated 270,313 American children were living in households headed by same-sex couples in 2005, and nearly twice that number had a single lesbian or gay parent. Since the 1990s, a quiet revolution has been blooming in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. More and more lesbians and gay men from all walks of life are becoming parents. LGBT people become parents for some of the same reasons that heterosexual people do. Some pursue parenting as single people and others seek to create a family as a couple; still other LGBT people became parents in a heterosexual relationship. Although there are many common themes between LGBT parenting and heterosexual parenting, there are also some unique features. Unlike their heterosexual counterparts, who couple, get pregnant, and give birth, most LGBT individuals and couples who wish to parent must consider many other variables in deciding whether to become parents because the birth option is not the only option.
Abbie E. Goldberg and April Moyer
Adoption by lesbian and gay parents is becomingly increasingly common. This entry presents an overview of the limited research that has focused on lesbian and gay adoptive parents. Specifically, this entry addresses the experience of adoptive parenthood for lesbian and gay parents, with emphasis on the decision-making process (that is, choosing adoption, choosing an agency, choosing an adoption type, and specifying child characteristics), the transition to adoptive parenthood, the psychological adjustment of the adoptive parents and their children, and the adoptive parent–child relationship. We end with recommendations for future research and implications for practitioners and policymakers.
M. J. Gilbert
In this entry, transgender is defined in the context of ethnomethodology and social construction of gender. A history of the role of transgender people in the gay, lesbian, and bisexual rights movement is presented, including tensions concerning the role of transgender people in this movement. Issues regarding social work practice related to transgender issues on the micro, mezzo, macro, and meta levels are discussed.
James I. Martin
This entry explains who gay men are, how gay identity constructions have evolved since their inception, and how they continue to evolve. It also describes the health and mental health problems that gay men may present to social work practitioners. In addition, it identifies several social policies that are relevant to gay men. The entry argues that a systemic perspective that takes into account the social, political, and cultural influences on gay men is necessary for understanding the problems that such men commonly experience.
Michael P. Dentato
There is a critical and ongoing need for the expansion of competency among social workers related to understanding queer identities and issues related to positionality within queer communities. It is also important to continually examine the evolving terminology and context through which the term queer has been defined over the years and relevant challenges with connectedness to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. Age cohort associations and the role of intersectionality also have relevance and underscore the multidimensional discourse necessary to develop effective competency, and engage in affirming practice with queer communities. Social worker practitioners must understand the implications for best practices associated with establishing and maintaining an affirming therapeutic alliance with queer clients, as well as the continued need for research related to understanding the unique needs of queer identities and the queer community at-large.
William J. Hall
Sexual orientation is a multidimensional phenomenon involving a person’s sexual attraction, sexual behavior, and sexual orientation identity. Sexual orientation patterns may remain consistent or fluctuate over time. Although heterosexual attractions, behaviors, and identities appear to be the dominant manifestations of sexual orientation, other sexual expressions exist. The causes of sexual orientation are still not completely understood; however, evidence suggests that biological factors play a strong role. Sexual development is an important part of human development, and there are parallel and differing developmental tasks and trajectories for those who are heterosexual and those who are queer. Non-heterosexual sexualities are often stigmatized, which contributes to homophobia and heterosexism. There is a continuing history in the mental health professions of efforts to change the sexual orientation of people who are queer, despite evidence of harm and ethical mandates. Researchers and service providers should assess sexual orientation because it is one of many important characteristics in the lives of individuals.